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8 Hidden Netflix Gems (And 8 That Totally Suck)

Entertainment
8 Hidden Netflix Gems (And 8 That Totally Suck)

If you’re wondering what on earth to watch next on Netflix, then, by all means, read on. The streaming service adds new movies and TV series by the barrel load. But volume is no guarantee of quality (as anyone who drinks watered-down beer at a traveling Bavarian festival will know).

Sometimes, it’s hard to gauge what’s worth two hours of your time — or not — and though the trailers and posters point to promising content, production companies are mightily good at polishing turds.

With around 83 million subscribers, Netflix has cornered a market in visual entertainment like no other and has so much money they can now properly produce their own stuff. The service offers some great movies, proper egg-and-spoon-race offerings, which cannot be missed.

Some of these hidden gems are older movies from the last decade, and some have just slipped under the radar. Why? Impossible to say, but at least, now, we have the chance to flash the goodies and give you a chance to taste them (so to speak) with our list of hidden Netflix gems.

But here’s the curve ball: not every movie in the history of the world is good, and this list is your definitive guide to both the legendary and the flack. Be warned — the bad are Get-The-Hell-Out-Of-Dodge bad. No refund requests, please.

16. The Good, The Bad, And The Weird (GEM)

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008) brings together Kang-ho Song, Byung-hun Lee, and Woo-sung Jung (no? us neither) for a comedy-action adventure. This South Korean western was inspired by Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The story focuses on a battle for a treasure map fought by three bounty hunters. The map leads the three to a boarded-up hole in the desert, which proves empty. Disappointed, the three shoot each other in a Mexican standoff. As they lie motionless, crude oil erupts from the hole. The Good and the Weird survive and begin chasing each other again.

The film was critically acclaimed, with magazine Variety commenting, “East meets West meets East again, with palate-tingling results, in ‘The Good the Bad the Weird,’ a kimchi Western that draws shamelessly on its spaghetti forebears but remains utterly, bracingly Korean.”

15. Scream: The TV Series (DUD)

A 45 min crime horror, Scream: The TV Series stars the likes of Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna, and others. Based on Wes Craven’s film Scream, it was developed by Jill Blotevogel, Dan Dworkin, and Jay Beattie. The plot is centered on the fictional town of Lakewood, where a string of murders take place and a group of teenagers is targeted by an unknown slasher. Lakewood’s troubled past is remembered, and the community begins to live in fear.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, “Lacking truly compelling characters or scenarios, Scream is formed to trade too heavily on nostalgia for its big-screen predecessors in the franchise.” Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015, David Wiegand criticised the series, giving it one star (out of four), panning the acting as “bland, robotic, and uninteresting.”

14. Adult Beginners (GEM)

Not that bad for starters, Adult Beginners (2014) brings together Ross Byrne, Nick Kroll, Joel McHale, and a whole bunch of other talented folk for a 1hr, 32min comedy drama. After Jake’s start-up business goes horribly wrong and falls apart around him, he’s forced to move in with his sister Justine, played by Rose Byrne. Soon realizing that Rose’s husband is having an affair, Jake’s living situation becomes awkward, and he must find a way to bring Rose’s attention to her husband’s infidelity.

Adult Beginners received mixed reviews from critics, but on the whole, it’s regarded as a worthwhile endeavor for someone who likes a background film while they’re doing other stuff. Nikola Grozdanovic of Indiewire wrote, “It’s not perfect, but as far as feature debuts go, there’s very little you can fault Adult Beginners for.”

13. Wentworth (DUD)

Wentworth is a serialized crime drama bringing together Danielle Cormack, Kate Atkinson, Celia Ireland, and others and was first broadcast on Australian network SoHo in May 2013. The series is a re-imagining of the immensely successful TV series Prisoner (known in the US and UK as Prisoner: Cell Block H), which ran on Network Ten from 1979 to 1986. Wentworth focuses on Bea Smith (Cormack), who, having been charged with the attempted murder of her husband, is sent to Wentworth prison and must learn how to deal with prisoner hierarchy.

Although the show received some praise, Gerard O’Donovan writing for The Daily Telegraph believed it did appeal to “mainstream tastes,” and that “the series sticks more closely to its violent, soapy, sexploitation Prisoner: Cell Block H roots than is strictly necessary in 2016.” However, if watching incarcerated ladies spend their waking time together is your thing, then we recommend watching it — but only then.

12. Sense8 (GEM)

Sense8 has been running since 2015 and is a serialized Sci-Fi drama. It stars Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, and others and was created by J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis (Lana/Larry and Lillie/Andy). The story follows eight physically unconnected people — Capheus, Sun, Nomi, Kala, Riley, Wolfgang, Lito and Will — who discover they’ve been linked psychically by a woman called Angelica. Angelica kills herself after being hunted down by someone called “Whispers.” The team becomes aware of Whispers’s attempts to find them and kill them, and their adventure continues.

About the first season, Rotten Tomatoes says, “Some of the scenarios border on illogical, but the diverse characters and the creative intersections between their stories keep the Wachowskis’ Sense8 compelling.” Sense8 continued to be positively received in its second season, and in a report released by Netflix, it was discovered that at least 70% of the viewers that watched up to the third episode ended up watching the entire first season (Variety, 2016).

11. Tallulah (GEM)

Tallulah (2016) stars Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard in this comedy romance. It follows the story of homeless girl Tallulah, who, by a quirk of fate, is left looking after the toddler of a woman who’s drunk and incapable. Tallulah kidnaps the baby in a moment of impulsiveness. After being chased by authorities and bonding with the child, Tallulah has no option but to give the child back to its mother.

The film received positive reviews from critics for its complex and touching study of human behavior. Rotten Tomatoes says of it: “Tallulah‘s narrative insight, thoughtfully written characters, and talented cast add up to an absorbing family drama that transcends genre tropes and capably overcomes its flirtations with melodrama.” The film was directed by Sian Heder, a veteran of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black.

10. iZombie (DUD)

iZombie (running from 2015) brings together Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, and others for a 42min-episode comedy crime drama. It’s a loose adaptation of the DC comic book series iZOMBIE by Chris Roberson. The story focuses on Olivia “Liv” Moore (McIver), who is turned into a zombie while at a party. In an effort to satisfy her hunger for human flesh, she starts working at a morgue and eats the dead patients she encounters. What’s more, whenever Liv eats a dead person’s brain, she inherits some of the personality traits and memories of the person.

Although Rotten Tomatoes gave iZombie a positive spin, describing it as “an amusing variation on the zombie trend,” the site also said that “iZombie is refreshingly different, if perhaps too youth-oriented to resonate with adult audiences.” Others were not so go-get. Peter Flynn, writer at CREATORS.CO headlined with “How the Dumbest Show on TV Got a Second Season.”

9. Trust (GEM)

Trust (2010) is a crime thriller starring Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, and others. The story focusses on fourteen-year-old Annie Cameron (Liberato), who befriends a boy called “Charlie” through a chat room. After meeting for the first time, Annie discovers the “boy” is a middle-aged man. Returning to a hotel room together, he rapes her, initiating an investigation by the FBI. Although believing she’s in love with Charlie, Annie is soon told that DNA evidence points to him being a serial rapist.

Trust is directed by David Schwimmer (he of Friends fame) and is based on a screenplay by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger. Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Roger Ebert rated the film four stars out of four, stating, “The bravest thing about David Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’ is that it doesn’t try to simplify” (rogerebert.suntimes.com, 2011).

8. Chloe & Theo (DUD)

Chloe & Theo (2015) follows the adventure of young homeless girl Chloe who happens upon an Arctic Inuit man called “Theo” walking the streets of her city. He explains that he’s traveled from his homeland to seek help from the developed world to stop climate change. Chloe joins him on his quest for help and answers. It stars Dakota Johnson, Theo Ikummaq, and Mira Sorvino, while Ezna Sands both wrote and directed the film, which enjoyed only a limited release. And here’s why:

The film is widely regarded as one of the worst hidden gems. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote of it, “Ikummaq is often reduced to being the butt of silly jokes. Johnson squanders whatever goodwill she earned from 50 Shades of Grey, looking apple-pie wholesome as a homeless ex-junkie whose squalid state is suggested only by artful smudges on her cheeks.”

7. Dope (GEM)

Dope (2015) stars Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, and a host of others in this comedy crime drama. The story follows a trio of high school geeks – Malcolm Adekanbi (Moore) and best friends, Jib (Revelori) and Diggy (Clemons) – living in a rough area of Inglewood, California. After attending a party hosted by a drug baron (to which they’re oblivious) Malcolm’s backpack is stuffed with high-grade methamphetamine just before the police raid the house. Returning home and realizing what has happened, Malcolm and his friends become unwittingly embroiled in a drug war.

The film was well received, with Rotten Tomatoes writing, “Featuring a star-making performance from Shameik Moore and a refreshingly original point of view from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is smart, insightful entertainment.” The film was also written by Rick Famuyiwa and was produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi.

6. The Ridiculous 6 (DUD)

The Ridiculous 6 (2015) features Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, and a whole host of other big names in this oddball comedy western. It was written by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy and was directed by Frank Coraci. The story follows the adventure of Tommy Stockburn (Sandler) who was raised by Native Americans. After the arrival of some bandits to the area, Tommy discovers he has five half-brothers, who then all set out to find their natural father.

The film received a 0% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the site writes, “Every bit as lazily offensive as its cast and concept would suggest, The Ridiculous Six is standard couch fare for Adam Sandler fanatics and must-avoid viewing for film enthusiasts of every other persuasion.” According to Variety, six Native American cast members walked off set over racist jokes, which Sandler and Netflix tried to downplay.

5. Pontypool (GEM)

Pontypool is a 2008 Canadian horror film directed by Bruce McDonald and written by Tony Burgess. It showcases the talent of Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, and Georgina Reilly. This 1hr 33min fantasy horror is worth seeing.

On his way to work, former shock jock turned radio announcer Grant Mazzy (McHattie) is stopped by a strange woman who shouts “blood” at him in quick succession. Thinking nothing of it, he continues to work. After several unexplained events take place over the course of the radio program, Grant is convinced something terrible is happening to the world, which is confirmed when the station comes under attack by a horde of people who’ve been struck by a virus.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a favorable write-up, saying, “Witty and restrained but still taut and funny, this Pontypool is a different breed of low-budget zombie film.”

4. Viktor (DUD)

Viktor (2014) stars Gérard Depardieu, Elizabeth Hurley, and Eli Danker in this Franco/Russian action thriller written and directed by Philippe Martinez. The story focuses on ex-art thief Victor Lambert (Depardieu) who, having served time in prison for a string of heists, returns to Russia to investigate the savage murder of Jeremy, his son, played by Jean Baptiste Fillon. He’s aided in his quest to find answers by his lover Alexandra (Hurley) and by ex-partner-in-crime Souliman (Danker).

To say the film wasn’t well received would be an understatement. The New York Daily News said that it “has the stench of a script Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington threw out an airplane window.” The Hollywood Reporter wrote as scathingly: “Depardieu, age 65 and looking like he can barely move due to his massive girth…the film is relentlessly tedious when it’s not being laughable.”

3. Peaky Blinders (GEM)

TV series Peaky Blinders (running from 2013) features Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, and others for a “gangster family epic” (IMDb, 2017). Set in England just after the First World War, the story centers on the machinations of the Blinders gang – a mixture of Irish gypsies – and their ambitious boss, Tommy Shelby (Murphy). The gang is pursued by Chief Inspector Major Chester Campbell, who has the unenviable role of clearing the streets of Birmingham of gangs and terrorists.

Season two is set a couple of years after the first, and here we see the Shelby family expand their criminal organization to “South and North [of London] while maintaining a stronghold in their Birmingham heartland,” according to the BBC. Peaky Blinders was created by Steven Knight and was filmed on location in Birmingham, Bradford, Dudley, Leeds, Liverpool, and Port Sunlight.

2. The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom (DUD)

The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom (2014) brings together Fan Bingbing, Huang Xiaoming, Vincent Zhao, and other stars of the Chinese film industry for this 1hr, 44min fantasy. Loosely adapted from the novel Baifa Monü Zhuan by Liang Yusheng, it’s a Chinese wuxia-fantasy 3D film, directed by Jacob Cheung (A Battle Of Wits (2006), Beyond the Sunset (1989)). Set toward the end of the Ming Dynasty, the story revolves around the efforts of sorceress Lian Nishang (Bingbing) to prevent the repression of her people by aggressive government agents. Set toward the end of the Ming Dynasty, the story revolves around the efforts of sorceress Lian Nishang (Bingbing) to prevent the repression of her people by aggressive government agents.

This film received a 0% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The Hollywood Reporter stated, “It’s a shame that Cheung’s first film in seven years is eventually weighed down by this rushed, uneven sprawl of a story credited to five screenwriters, each of whom possibly bringing their own references and their perspective in how to make The White Haired Witch connect with a new generation of viewers.”

1. The Starving Games (DUD)

The Starving Games (2013) features Maiara Walsh, Cody Christian, Brant Daugherty for a parody based on The Hunger Games, directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The story focuses on Kantmiss Evershot (Walsh) who is practicing for the upcoming games. The games, however, are in shambles, and Kantmiss is embroiled in an attempt by the games’ producer, Snowballs, to kill her.

Critical acclaim was sorely lacking, and the movie received only scathing comments. Scott Foy of Dread Central wrote, “The printed word cannot fully express my dismay at having experienced this latest alleged comedy,” and Gabe Torio (Indiewire) wrote that it “is as terrible as you think it is.” It goes without saying that this is probably the worst parody ever produced and most of us are left asking why….

Why, oh why?


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